Humans, plural, shall never learn. The destiny of forced homogeneity is death and/or nothingness. We are often told that we should learn from the lessons of the past. Usually we are told this by someone in such a position that it is made clear to the discerning listener, that they most definitely have not learnt from the lessons of the past, whatever they may be. By that I mean, when you hear someone state that we should learn from the lessons of the past it’s usually spouted by someone in power, and as such someone who can ultimately tailor or eschew those ‘lessons’ for whatever gain they wish, in fact, they can make the lessons up if they so wish. The fact we still continue to state that we need to learn from the past means we haven’t, I find the whole thing silly. If you’re waiting for some deus ex civitas – God from the community – then you’ve already missed the point.
Most of us spend our entire lives like Vladimir and Estragon, the protagonists of Beckett’s novel Waiting for Godot. Two helpless chaps who are waiting for a person/entity/thing called Godot, and until he shows up they muse on existential dilemmas and ponder life in general. My synopsis is terrible, but it’s the aimless waiting here that is the point. You’re waiting for something, even if you don’t know it, chances are that ‘thing’ is death. Those of you who’ve read a little and are a little more woke than others might be waiting for a revolution, others might be waiting for capitalism to unshackle itself from the states’ last grasp, some waiting for love, or whatever, you get the idea, you’re sitting about with this awful idea in the back of your mind that things just…happen. And perhaps the only lesson of history we’ve taken onboard is a bastardized form of the ol’ “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (JFK). Well, it’s bastardized in such a way that now the lesson we have taken onboard is as follows, The only thing necessary for the triumph of boredom, unfulfillment and discontentment is that you do nothing.
I can’t blame people for attending to this form of waiting, from day one (once again) it’s instilled within our very nervous system, the idea that change is this other/outside force that acts on its own accord and will enter your life if it so decides. Now, I am not averse to other agencies, forces and pulls throughout the cosmos, however, to sit idly and hope such a force pokes you out of comfort is a silly thing to do. We were taught by TV shows, video games, fantasy novels, the education system and society that things just happen. The hero happens to turn up, the villain is always planning something, politics is a series of (always) big events, books promoting the chosen one, history taught as linear progression of happenings and friends and family discussing gossip, rumours and events of their lives. This entire dynamic pushes the idea that things just happen, all the time, everywhere, everyone is having things happen to them. It pushes the idea that change isn’t a very slow – often quite dull – process, but is a series of bangs.
As much as I cannot blame people for this constructed ennui in-itself, I can blame them for their willingness to roll around it, even revel in it. People who wish for X, whether it be money, a slim-body, a nicer job, a calmer life, never really go for it in any direct way. Usually they rely on third-party apparatus to mollycoddle them along even the most banal changes in their life, as if without a support-system-for-change, nothing can happen. Those losing weight attend weight loss groups, those trying to make more money search through others ideas and mutate them, those looking for a nicer job look at the stereotypical nice jobs they’ve been taught to think are nice, those looking for a calmer life search forum posts on how to de-stress, meditate or minimize. We assume that if others don’t know what we’re doing then there’s little point in doing it.
Other groups shall tell you that the real enemy is the forces of separation between you and everyone else, except, in reality that’s just a covert way of forming their very own ‘They’ or group, isn’t it? The constant push and pull between communal/herd ideas is a tough one to escape. The quickest route out of this form of thinking is to stop believing in change as an abstraction distant from your-self. Others will tell you to expend you energy on attempting to destroy the systems which you believe are altering your life in unfavorable ways. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t elements of the ‘system’ which are out to get the common man, there most definitely are, and they make up the bulk of the system. However, I don’t believe that shoveling the large majority of one’s problems on an abstraction called ‘the system’ is helpful either. It’s an easy-out.
I harp on about the problem with groups a lot, and it was a big thing a many years back, the whole ‘anti-conformist’ angle. I guess it always has been, the irony is of course that those who proclaim that they are ‘anti-conformist’ are just creating a new form of thinking to conform to, see: Punks, Communists, Traditionals, Conservatives, Carnivores, Vegans etc. It’s extremely easy to believe something that has molded itself to seem correct from every direction. “I do X, and X is correct!” The tough thing to admit is this. You have a very limited amount of energy, and the way in which you use it is solely up to yourself, do you truly believe that channeling you energy into another pithy group of idealists is going to alter your own life in any real way? Or are you once again failing to take responsibility. I don’t wish to sound like Peterson here, but 5 early morning rises, trump a thousand imagined revolutions. take your energy away from blaming the other, and channel it into your own feats.
I imagine that you are now thinking, well yes, that’s all well and good saying this, but what are we supposed to do then, what are you alluding to? If you thought that then you’re already very close to a helpful mode of thinking. ‘What are we supposed to do.‘ should be changed to ‘What can I do.’. You know very well there’s plenty of things you most definitely can, or could – with a little preparation – do to increase you fulfillment in life. Quite honestly there’s no excuse to not. It’s the realization that expending your energy on group-think, is really expending your energy in much the same way you do for your employer, allowing it to become the product of someone else’s end-goal. Stop looking for validation or vindication. No one cares you started taking cold showers, or sleep on the floor, or eat a certain diet, or live in a van, just do it. Assimilating these ideas into ‘the system’ is giving them the leeway to become assimilated further and become banal identity’s like everything else has. Remember when people used to just ‘have beards’? I do. But now everyone with a beard is quickly dragged into this mind-numbing identity surrounding beards. The same goes for any TV show, any popular book, anything really, it’s all becoming identity.
Identity has become quite an easy target of late, but it begs a few words. Identity, as it is commonly understood these days is merely a culmination of one’s consumption habits. ‘Well I’m really into Netflix, dogs, pizza, gin and romcoms.’ or ‘Bearded, love football, clubbing and watching Arnie films.’ Humans are at a loss of what to do, say or even think about if it is bereft of a connection to something someone else has created. Rarely do we discuss something the person we are talking to has created or written, to do so would seem strange. Rarely do we discuss how we’re feeling or thinking, what meaning we are finding and our own paths to contentment. Thought has become caught between possessions and standardization.
Practice: If you so wish you can cause ruptures in the cosmos. The way in which you do this is quite simple. Disagree with a notion so commonplace that it is never even thought about. You are indeed allowed to think cars and roads are stupid, that dishwashers and lottery tickets are bought by morons, that bottled water is at best absurd, that themeparks are at heart a form of hell. And you are of course allowed to interject, and throw passion, love and beauty into other’s lives. The way in which you do this too is quite simply. Mention something minor or inconsequential you saw that you found sublime. Say that you saw a squirrel on your route here and he looked jolly, you saw a few cows chewing the grass and they seemed content, tell your friend that it is always great to see them. This is usually enough to knock people out of the coma of modernity.
All group-think is living in the future. What are we going to do, when are we going to do it, when will the community finally be ready and on and on they drone. Your lives must be the space and time unto which you take control, for it is the only area of which you have any direct effect, however, you have all the effect here. You can, quite literally, do whatever you so wish. You can begin by altering the way in which you think. Away from a form of expectation, hoping and desiring towards objects and groups which you half-believe might alter things, towards a way of thinking which admits that changing one’s own life will be tough, there will be sacrifice and there will be many moments of discomfort, but that form of danger shall allow you to grow quicker than anyone sat of the sofa. There’s a saying in the fitness community that walking even 100 meters is still lapping someone sat on the sofa many times. As such, altering just one facet of your life is still a step closer to purer freedom of the self than anyone engrossed in the latest soap opera.
In my recent discussion with Dmitry Orlov he noted that (to paraphrase), If you are to remove all the vices from most people’s lives what do you have left? A shallow…entity. It might be very difficult to swallow, but ask yourself this extremely difficult question: Without my vices, who am I? Without your phone, your clothing taste, your quirky possessions, your taste in media, your book taste or your general object obsession, what are you? Is a large part of what you do, say and revolve around primarily in relation to acquiring, disavowing or generally interacting with objects of entertainment/vices? If the answer is yes, fear not. There are most definitely aspects of yourself which are not to do with escape, vices, entertainment or consumption, you’ve just forgot them, it’s a little sad, but they can be retrieved, but that in itself can be quite a lot of work, I shall extrapolate on how one can begin this process in another post; but for now I shall tell you this, there is no more worthwhile task than the re-enchantment of one’s life and the shedding of modernity’s toxic baggage.